Case study – Australian Crime Commission
A case study documenting the Intelledox Information Disclosure Checklist and Record of Decision.
The agency’s information disclosure checklist was converted to a streamlined digital checklist in a simplified digital format which identified sections requiring mandatory information. It is quick and easy to complete, stored within the records management system on completion, and more accessible, accurate and secure.
The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) is Australia’s national criminal intelligence agency with specialist investigative capabilities. We are the only agency solely dedicated to combating serious and organised crime of national significance.
The ACC has significant national criminal intelligence data holdings. We collect criminal intelligence from partner agencies to create and share a comprehensive national picture. Much of this work is completed by analysing (or 'fusing') diverse data sets to improve understanding of known criminal threats and discover previously unknown risks.
Given the ACC can obtain information using specialist investigative capabilities and coercive powers, we operate under strict secrecy provisions. In turn, sharing (or ‘disclosing’) intelligence and information with partners is a complex process involving multiple checks to ensure we abide by various legal and sensitive requirements. This includes ensuring compliance with the ACC Act and many other relevant non-disclosure rules for each piece of information we share with partners.
Disclosures can only be approved by our CEO or delegated to our senior executive—a small group given the relatively small size of our organisation. They must review and record decisions for each disclosure. As many as six or more sets of approvals may need to be obtained for a disclosure we share externally. In order to record this decision, each member of staff must complete a Record of Decision (‘checklist’) each time a disclosure occurs.
In its original form, the checklist was a 21-page Microsoft Word template requiring start-to-finish completion each time we made a disclosure. In many cases, this would include marking much of the checklist ‘not applicable’ depending on conditions surrounding the disclosure. Processing a disclosure could typically take up to four hours and involve up to six people, depending on complexity. Given that the agency disseminates around 2,000 intelligence products alone every year, this effort could total almost three days effort per disclosure.
There were also key information management deficiencies using this process. Checklists would often be initiated and left incomplete, had their access locked down to single members of staff and would be stored in the agency’s Electronic Document Records Management System (TRIM) in decentralised locations. The template nature also meant that harnessing data obtained in a checklist was difficult, as individual checking of the 21-page checklist was the only method of obtaining a comprehensive picture.
In July 2012 (soon after the Word checklist was implemented), staff and Executive concerns were raised regarding the complexities of the Word checklist and the Information Management and Disseminations & RFI teams were tasked to develop a solution to streamline the checklist process and try to increase efficiency and reduce the risks associated with completing a 21-page checklist several times a day.
During the project’s planning phase, the Information Management team were developing documents using Intelledox—an innovative software development tool that specialises in business process digitisation—and given the value an Intelledox solution could offer the agency from a digital continuity standpoint, the team decided to transfer the Word checklist into an Intelledox platform.
In planning a solution, much of the initial feedback from staff was their concern for the cumbersome nature of the Word checklist, insufficient advice or instruction in the checklist surrounding disclosures and the manual handling associated with attaining varying sets of approval that form part of a disclosure.
The project was managed in phases, with extensive testing paramount in ensuring agency secrecy provisions were not compromised in the new format. The project team consulted widely and incorporated feedback from relevant areas. The project team also ran extensive all staff testing to gauge user reception and gather comments.
The Intelledox checklist was launched in December 2013 and was universally welcomed. The project team also received an internal reward for innovation.
The benefits of the new checklist include:
- mandatory inclusion of all information required by the ACC;
- the requirement to answer only relevant sections of the checklist, significantly reducing the length of the final checklist;
- improved information for staff to aid decision making – such as links to legislation, intranet pages and policy documents;
- reduction of risks as users only need to answer required questions;
- streamlined automated workflow up until the checklist is generated and stored in TRIM and ready for CEO or delegate approval;
- automated email notification for all parties involved in the disclosure of progress for checklist approval; and
- improved review and approval processes by reducing volume and workload, resulting in faster decision-making.
The checklist generated by Intelledox is a finalised PDF placed in TRIM. The document cannot be edited or updated. Metadata can be added to in TRIM to track approval by the delegate and actions taken following a disclosure. The generated checklist is open to all staff and has no access controls applied. The checklist database also provides measurable data based on the answers and responses in the Intelledox workflow process.
In December 2014, the checklist had its first enhancement, where a series of questions have been inserted to assist in measuring agency performance as they relate to strategic objectives.
To date, nearly 3,500 checklists have been generated using Intelledox, which equates to nearly 9,000 Intelledox workflows. The Checklist is one of the most widely used documents across the ACC and the changes have resulted in significant time savings and enhanced digital records management for the agency. Specifically, the time taken to complete a checklist can now take as little as 1 hour in some cases, meaning that the agency has reduced the workload by up to 3-4 hours per disclosure across all analysts and delegates in many cases.
* case study as supplied by the agency, with minor formatting changes made by the Archives